Tuesday, December 31, 2002
TIMES THEATRE TRIBUTES--2002
Greater Cleveland is blessed with a vital theatre scene. Unfortunately, the local performers, directors and technicians often get little acknowledgment. It is the purpose of the TIMES THEATRE TRIBUTES to recognize theatrical experiences that, in the mind of this reviewer, were excellent.
No attempt is made to name the best in each classification. Actors were not separated by gender or leading or supporting roles. It is also recognized that I did not see all of the productions in the area, so only shows performed in 2002 that I reviewed were considered. Selections are limited to locally produced performances, so none of the professional touring shows are recognized, though actors, directors and technicians who were imported by local theatres were considered.
Thanks to the following for making the theatre scene in the Cleveland area vital and exciting.
A Times Theatre Tribute 2002 for an Outstanding Production to:
AVENUE X, Cain Park
BLUE SKY TRANSMISSION: A TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD, Cleveland Public Theatre
LOVE, LANGSTON, Great Lakes Theatre Festival
MAN OF LAMANCHA, Halle Theatre
MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, Great Lakes Theatre Festival
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Great Lakes Theatre Festival
PARADE, Beck Center
SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE , Beck Center
THE LATE HENRY MOSS, Dobama
THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES: A LIFE IN REVUE, Berea Summer Theatre
THREE IN THE BACK, TWO IN THE HEAD, Dobama
WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, Actors’ Summit
A Times Theatre Tribute 2002 for Outstanding Acting to:
Miche Braden, LOVE, LANGSTON, Great Lakes Theatre Festival
Bernie Capenari, THREE IN THE BACK, TWO IN THE HEAD, Dobama
Donald Clark, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUKOO’S NEST, Porthouse Theatre
Derrick Cobey, AVENUE X, Cain Park
Yolanda Davis, CONSTANT STAR, Dobama
Vincent Dowling, MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, Great Lakes Theatre Festival
Paula Duesing, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, Actors’ Summit
Robert Ellis, THE LATE HENRY MOSS, Dobama
Susan Ericksen, BRIGHT IDEAS, Cleveland Play House
Annie Fitzpatrick,ONE FLEW OVER THE CUKOO’S NEST, Porthouse Theatre
Amanda Folino, WILL ROGERS FOLLIES: A LIFE IN REVUE, Berea Summer Theatre
Tom Fulton, MAN OF LAMANCHA, Halle Theatre
Tom Fulton, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, Actors’ Summit
Keith Gerchak, THE MELODY LINGERS ON, Berea Summer Theatre
Keith Gerchak, Parade, Beck Center
Seth Gordon, THREE IN THE BACK, TWO IN THE HEAD, Dobama
Alltrinna Grayson, SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE, Beck Center
Thomasina Gross,ONCE ON THIS ISLAND ,Porthouse Theatre
Ann Guibert, WAVERLY GALLERY, Cleveland Play House
Robert Hawkes, THREE IN THE BACK, TWO IN THE HEAD, Dobama
Providence Hollander, THE LEADING LEADIES OF BEREA SUMMER THEATRE, BST
Anna Kitral, THE INTERVIEW, Halle Theatre
Mary Klaehn. BRIGADOON, Porthouse Theatre
Marty Lodge, McMurphy, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUKOO’S NEST, Porthouse Theatre
Andrew May, THE INFINITE REGRESS OF HUMAN VANITY, Cleveland Play House
Andrew May, BRIGHT IDEAS, Cleveland Play House
Joyce M. Meadows, PROPOSALS, Beck
Kate Mulgrew, TEA AT FIVE, Cleveland Play House
Frederick Owens, LOVE, LANGSTON, Great Lakes Theatre Festival
Gary Walker, AVENUE X, Cain Park
Tyson Postma, THE LATE HENRY MOSS, Dobama
Kyle Primous, PARADE, Beck Center
Trinidad Rosado, SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE, Beck Center
Dorothy Silver, THE MAI, Dobama
Nan Wray. HOMEBODY/KABUL, Dobama
Jean Karzour, HOMEBODY/KABUL, Dobama
Ensemble cast: Lisa Black, Tracy Broyles, Kishiko Hasegawa, Holly Holsinger, Brett
Keyser, Amy Kristina, Karin Randoja, Sophia Skiles, Rebecca Spencer, and Chi-wang Yang, BLUE SKY TRANSMISSION: A TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD, Cleveland Public Theatre
A Times Theatre Tribute 2002 for Outstanding Directing to:
Drew Barr, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Great Lakes Theatre Festival
Loni Berry, adaptation and directing, LOVE, LANGSTON, Great Lakes Theatre Festival
Russ Borski, THE LATE HENRY MOSS, Dobama
Victoria Bussert, AVENUE X, Cain Park
Raymond Bobgan, BLUE SKY TRANSMISSION: A TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD ,
Cleveland Public Theatre
Martin Cespedes, SMOKEY JOE’S, choreographer/director, Beck Center
Scott Spence, PARADE, Beck Center
Fred Sternfeld, MAN OF LAMANCHA, Halle Theatre
Sue Ott Rowlands, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUKOO’S NEST, Porthouse Theatre
Lora Workman,THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES: A LIFE IN REVUE, BST
A Times Theatre Tribute 2002 for Outstanding Choreography to:
Eric van Baars, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, Porthouse Theatre
Martin Cespedes, MAN OF LAMANCHA, Halle Theatre
Jimmy Helms, THE LATE HENRY MOSS, Dobama, fight choreography
A Times Theatre Tribute 2002 for Outstanding Technical Achievement to:
John Ezell, set design, MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, Great Lakes Theatre Festival
Michael Guy-James, set, BLUE SKY TRANSMISSION: A TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD , Cleveland Public Theatre
Gina Leone’s lighting THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES: A LIFE IN REVUE, Berea Summer Theatre
Don McBride, set design, PROPOSALS, Beck Center
Ron Newell, set design, THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES: A LIFE IN REVUE, Berea Summer Theatre
Robin Ruth, costumes, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, Porthouse Theatre
Robert Stegmiller, set design, OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS, Actors’ Summit
Jeffrey Smart, costumes, THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES: A LIFE IN REVUE, Berea Summer Theatre
A Times Theatre Tribute 2002 for Outstanding Musical Direction in a Musical
Marcella McElroy Caffie, THE AMEN CORNER, Cleveland Play House
Nancy Gantose-Maier, AVENUE X, Cain Park
Larry Hartzell, MAN OF LAMANCHA, Halle
Nancy Maier, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, Porthouse Theatre
Danny McElroy, THE AMEN CORNER, Cleveland Play House
Charles Eversole, WILL ROGERS FOLLIES: A LIFE IN REVUE, Berea Summer Theatre
David Williams, SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE, Beck Center
Larry Goodpaster, PARADE, Beck Center
A Times Theatre Tribute 2002 for service to the theatre
ARACA, major contribution to Broadway theatre by a production organization with a Cleveland connection
Don Bianchi, Dobama, lifetime of achievement in Cleveland theatre
Hamlim El-Dabh, music composition, BLUE SKY TRANSMISSION: A TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD , Cleveland Public Theatre
Fay Sholiton, author, THE INTERVIEW, Halle Theatre
TONY N’ TINA’S WEDDING, longest running show in Cleveland theatrical history
Sunday, December 15, 2002
Lorain County's Ohio Dance Theatre at CPH
Denise Gula is a fascinating woman. She is not only a creative choreographer, but, fighting against the odds, she has become a very successful dance producer. Her Ohio Dance Theatre, which is housed in Oberlin, is taking a giant leap forward when it presents three performances of 'JOURNEY' at the Cleveland Play House. The piece, an original work of musical theatre, chronicles the historical, emotional and spiritual evolution of African Americans from slave days to the present.
The fact that this is a theatrical dance piece should be of no surprise to Gula’s many followers. From her years as a dancer and performer at Karamu House, to her North Ridgeville High School acting days, to her successful career as an actress, director and founder of the Lorain Community College dance program, and choreographing of many community theatre musicals, she has always combined her acting and dancing background in her work.
'JOURNEY' has been a four-year labor of love. As Gula says, “Like so many projects in this arts climate, it was born of necessity. Financial constraints compelled me to develop a piece using the only dancer I had, a dancer who happened to be black.” She goes on to state, “I thought of making a celebration for Black History Month. Brian Lankar’s photo book about black women 'I DREAM A WORLD' was the source of visual inspiration.”
Capsule judgement: The original piece was 35-minutes long. Now, it is a full-length production. And, it is a production of substance. As one reviewer stated, “this ia a fast-paced show that is worthy of being done on a national basis.” Knowing Gula, and her past history of confronting issues straight on, don’t be surprised if a national production doesn’t follow!
Rockets high-kick in Christmas spectacular at Playhouse Square
How can anyone give a “bah-humbug” to a production with dancing teddy bears, parading wooden soldiers, performing Snowmen, flying reindeer, elves doing rap, singing poinsettias, dancing toys, a singing Santa Claus, falling snow, camels, sheep, a donkey and a preteen ballerina? And, to top it all off, the entire presentation is built around the high-kicking precision of the Radio City Rockettes. You’d have to be a total Scrooge to even suggest that there would be anything but smiles on the faces of the children of all ages who are flocking to Playhouse Square to see the 'RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR.'
The show which features such memorable segments as "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and "The Living Nativity," has added a wonderful visual song and dance sequence "Christmas in New York." These, along with “We Need a Little Christmas” (from the musical MAME), “Santa’s Gonna Rock And Roll” (a tribute to Cleveland’s Rock Hall of Fame), a wonderful new tap number, “The Twelve Days Of Christmas,” and “A Teddy Bear’s Dream (a ballet version of “The Nutcracker” featuring bigger than life teddy bears in tutus), lead to cheers of joy. It continues to be a professional, enthusiastically presented spectacular that is hard to resist.
Realizing that not everyone can get to New York to see the show, in 1994 'THE RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR' broadened its schedule to encompass other markets. Since then over two million people a year have experienced the excitement. Besides coming to Cleveland, troupes are performing in Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati, Branson(MO), Atlanta, and The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. That’s a lot of kicking and dancing!
The cast includes 22 rockettes, 14 singers and dancers, 4 little people, Santa and Mrs. Claus. More than 200 colorful costumes and 150 hats are used. Each outfit is designed specifically for the show. Nineteen teddy bears appear. Each bear is from a different part of the world and each costume weighs between 30 and 60 pounds. Two camels, 4 sheep and a 1 donkey appear in the nativity scene. It took over thirteen trailer trucks to deliver all the elements of the show to Cleveland.
Capsule judgement: The rockets show is quite a Christmas spectacular!
Monday, December 02, 2002
'THE MAI' at Dobama Irish through and through
The Irish are known for their telling of tales which are often long in the relating, center on dysfunctional families, and wander into the maudlin. Think O’Casey, Beckett and Synge and you have a feel for Irish writing. Though Marina Carr, the author of THE MAI, now having its Ohio Premiere at Dobama Theatre, doesn’t consider herself to be in a direct line from all the great Irish playwrights of the past, her play does follow their traditions.
THE MAI is an examination of love and obsession. The play concerns a four generation Irish family who find themselves in constant angst, conflict, and fighting for a sense of self, while being consumed by passion. It takes the view that the greatest love is to be found in another, and supports the myth of finding a soul mate to whom one is completely and eternally bound. In order for that to happen, a person must be willing to let go of her own self. As in much of Irish lore, it is an all or nothing effect, with strong melodramatic underpinnings.
The main character, Mai is a woman consumed by her love of a philandering musician. The love defines her and it controls her. For five years she has survived in his self imposed absence. To entice him back she has built a beautiful home on the shores of Loch Owl. Here, her Robert can compose his music, inspired by her adoration and devotion. It will be a shrine to their love. He returns, but her dreams that he will never leave her again and will be eternally faithful are soon dashed.
Mai's sixteen year old daughter Millie recounts the story, which parallels an Irish legend of tragic lovers who once supposedly lived on the lake where the play takes place. Carr pits myth against reality, illusion against truth, and basic human need against desire. As is the case in most Irish tales, the ending is not one of happiness.
The play is long and has little in the way of emotional texturing except for the actions of Mai’s grandmother. The long speeches and lack of dynamic action are broken by cello interludes which help enhance the mood.
As Mai, Bernadette Clemens never quite convinces of her obsessive love toward Robert. The shadings needed to develop the character are on the surface rather than deep in the soul. Andrew May gives his usual competent performance as Robert. He has to dig to find depth in the character as the part is not written with the same quality as the author uses in developing her women. Sherri Britton and Mary Jan Nottage give fine portrayals as Mai’s aunts. As Millie, Tyler Postma gives a surface level performance.
Dorothy Silver is perfect as Grandma Fraochlan. Her drug induced scene with Tracey Field, who portrays Mai’s sister Beck, is hysterically delightful.
Capsule judgement: Silver, along with the marvelous cello interludes by the very talented Joshua Roman, are reason enough to attend the production.
Sunday, December 01, 2002
'A TUNA CHRISTMAS/entertains at CPH
First there was GREATER TUNA, a delightful comedy exposing theatre audiences to the residents of Texas’ third smallest town, where the Lion’s club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies. Now, there is A TUNA CHRISTMAS. We meet all the town’s eccentric citizens portrayed by two actors playing all 24 characters.
The residents of Greater Tuna are full of holiday spirit, but can they cope with such traumas as a disaster-prone production of "A Christmas Carol" or a yard-decorating contest that's being sabotaged by a mysterious phantom?
The script skewers gun nuts, Baptists, old church ladies, pink-dressed diner waitresses, and just about every other Southern stereotype. This is a He-Haw laced comedy. How can you sit there and not laugh at lines like, “She sounds like white trash at a tent meeting,” “It almost makes me want to go back to school and get my GED,” “Get that out of your mouth, it’s not that kind of thermometer,” and “Even Baptists out to sin once in a while, that’s what the church is for.” Watch as two little old ladies try and kill bluejays with a sling shot and marbles, as a saleslady of weapons encourages everyone to carry guns, or as a pair of midgets stand behind a dutch door ordering food with only their hair in view.
National reviewers have heralded other stagings of the show with such comments as: "I wouldn't want to spend Christmas anywhere but Tuna, Texas,"
“The multiple stories are the stuff of biting comedy -- laced with poignant moments that take one's breath away," and, "A TUNA CHRISTMAS delivers a stocking full of laughs!"
The CPH production, under the guidance of Billy Bob Hoffman, doesn’t produce the delight of the productions starring Joe Sears and Ed Howard, two of the show’s writers and performers. In the local show Dana Snyder is delightful. His characters are each full-blown. He adds emotional nuances to the various men and women he portrays. Chuck Richie, on the other hand, is tentative and doesn’t make the necessary emotional and physical shades between the people he portrays. In his interpretations, pathos and comedy aren’t always separated. In general, the pacing of the production is quite slow, but this should improve as the duo interacts with each other and reacts to the laughs of the audience.
Capsule judgement: 'A TUNA CHRISTMAS' will delight audiences. In spite of some problems, it surely did opening night.